Open Thread: What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Youth Issues?

Image by Timberland Regional Library via Flickr Creative Commons.

Latoya and Arturo had a conversation last night that started from this story about 33 high school students in California getting suspended for their involvement in a music video that involved twerking.

Besides the discussion on twerking itself–and it becoming popular in a majority-white space–two facts stuck out: a) the video was shot on school property, with school equipment, under the pretense of being an assignment (it was not), and b) many of the seniors involved have to petition to win back their rights to be part of their prom and graduation ceremonies, based on the school’s “zero tolerance” policy:

At Scripps Ranch High school there is zero tolerance for students who cause major disruptions at school or school activities. Any student who causes a major disruption will receive a five (5) day suspension, a possible new school placement and may be arrested.

But at the same time, it’s fair to ask: how are schools doing when it comes to teaching students not just how to use tech, but the implications and ethics associated with that? What happens when your image is in the public eye for some video or something you said on Twitter?

And considering that the video in question was shot with school equipment that somebody, presumably, was in charge of, how liable is the school for not being able to sniff out the problem beforehand? How well are younger people and their educators prepared to deal with  (Trigger Warning for upcoming link) a World Star world, and the consequences it can have on not just your educational career, but your professional prospects?

So let’s consider that a call for your thoughts, and your submissions–on not just that issue, but on the kinds of things that most directly affect our younger Racializens. What’s on the mind of the generation coming up?

[Image by Timberlake Regional Library via Flickr Creative Commons]

About This Blog

Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at

The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.

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  • Jessica Isabel

    So this is a topic that’s actually pretty near and dear to me. I’m an ESL teacher in the poorest Congressional district in the country. The majority of my students are recent immigrants (in the US for less than 3 years) and while our school does have some tech resources available to its teachers, there just isn’t enough to go around. I was lucky enough to get a Smart Board in my classroom and yet my principal refuses to give us time off to go to Professional Developments to learn how to *use* them.

    Basically – we as teachers need to be tech-savvier than our students if we want to be able to teach them how to use tech appropriately. That’s just not the case across the board. Then, the expectations for tech knowledge vary so much across the spectrum of English Language Learners (ELLs) that it’s really impossible to assume that they know anything. There are some major technological divides that exist in public education in the US right now. One of them is socio-economic, one is generational, and another is length of time in the US vs. in a country where tech is not as available (if available at all).

    The conversation often revolves around social media, but we’re leaving out a significant proportion of students who not only have *no* experience with tech, but who are going to be expected to have that knowledge somehow by the time they leave school. With schools that don’t have the resources or the trained teachers to do that instruction in meaningful ways, that gap is going to continue to widen.

  • Kate K. F.

    I’m a school librarian at an independent school outside Detroit, so the population is more privileged than at many schools, but I come across these issues a lot. The main difference is that the majority of my students have their own devices. One of the main things I see is that basically trust of young people only goes so far for a lot of people in charge. Since I’m in the library, I’m constantly having conversations about use and ethics and how something can be stupid, wrong and not a good idea.

    Its something that really needs to be addressed more as this landscape is constantly changing and a lot of older people involved in education don’t realize how fluid it is. There’s very much this idea of yes or no instead of looking for the grey where everyone lives. The way I phrase it is life isn’t either/or, its much more both/and, but both/and requires compromise and saying you don’t know and is much harder to live in.

    One way I’ve dealt with the school resources issue is that I allow kids a little more leeway on their own devices but explain about using the school’s network. From what I’ve observed, its a discussion with no easy answers and that depends a great deal on the school, the community and above all the students. What do they want? What do they feel comfortable with? And then how can that be pitched and negotiated with teachers and administrators to also keep the school safe as well. I look forward to hearing what everyone else has to say as I’m constantly learning and messing up and trying to do the best for them.